A Dutch court announced witchcraft courses now qualify for tax breaks. The court found that a witch can declare schooling costs if it increases the likelihood of employment and personal income.
“This is something that comes along with guaranteeing religious freedom,” said Western philosophy professor Sean Mulligan, who teaches a course on the history of witchcraft. “Wicca does qualify as a religion. A study has shown that Wicca is the fastest growing religion in Canada — more people convert to Wicca each year than Catholicism.”
Wicca pre-dates Christianity and, according to founder and director of the Encounter World Religions Centre J.W. Windland, is full of misconceptions.
“The biggest misconception is that it is devil or Satan worship,” he said. “The devil is not part of their pantheon or mythology. The figure of Satan is more developed in Christianity — it doesn’t appear at all in Wicca.”
The decision by the Dutch court shows the religion’s growing acceptance. A North American example Mulligan mentioned is a state witch in Massachusetts. It is an appointed position which represents witches and the many museums dedicated to witchcraft.
“I don’t think you’ll see any Wiccan colleges in our religious school systems,” Mulligan added. “But if they can prove they can gain financially, we should give them the same breaks as other religions.”
“In the 1960s and ’70s especially, Wicca came more to the fore, as did other nature-based traditions,” Windland added. “Traditions dealing with balance, with individual life, and life of the planet was a philosophy that was appealing to many at that time.”
Windland said the number of practicing witches is hard to know. He said there are 500,000 known Wiccans, but feels the number is grossly underestimated because most followers are not public about it, due to its negative connotations.
Mulligan said there are fewer negative connotations now, however, and most practicing Wiccans are predominantly middle-class young women because the religion embraces femininity.
“The thinking that it is only something associated with Satan is a 500- year old hangover,” he said.